Professor Michael Kidd AM – Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer – is a world expert on primary care. He is “the nation’s GP” as he says.
Professor Kidd is confident that the vaccines will fight COVID-19, a virus that has killed over 2.5 million people globally and crammed ICU beds across Europe, North and Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Optimism and confidence
“I am optimistic, what we know from these vaccines is that they protect people from developing serious illness and the risk of death from COVID-19,” Professor Kidd said.
Professor Kidd began his significant career in the 1980s in Melbourne then moved across Australia. In the 1990s, he was involved in the primary care response to HIV Aids.
He was the president of the World Australian College of General Practitioners, president of the World Organisation of Family Doctors and director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Family Medicine and Primary Care based at the University of Toronto and the chair of the Academic Department of Family Medicine at that University.
In late 2019 he was to return to Australia to lead the National Primary Care Reforms and he was scheduled to arrive in 2020 but Brendan Murphy then Australia’s CHO called and said, ‘Look, things look like they’re going to get very serious do you think you might be able to come back to Australia sooner?’
COVID-19 vaccines are a ‘modern miracle’
Asked about the 12 months it took to find a COVID-19 vaccin,e in contrast to the decades it has taken for other vaccines to be developed, Professor Kidd calls it is “an extraordinary moment in time” and brands it “a modern medical miracle”.
“The process has been fast tracked because of the global emergency; more money has been put into the development of this vaccine than we’ve ever had seen invested in any other vaccines in the past, because this pandemic has been killing so many people around the world
The pandemic is “raging out of control in many countries” he says and then points to the 270 million people who have received at least a first dose a vaccine “without any ill effects”.
“Vaccines save lives and have been doing so for a very long time, Australia has one of the highest rates of childhood immunizations.
“Think back to our grandparents’ generation, it was normal to lose children from the infectious diseases, that just doesn’t happen now.”
‘Do no harm’ is the loadstar for Kidd
The nation’s GP is a staunch believer of “that great aphorism from Hippocrates, Do no harm”.
“We have a very stringent process of regulation in Australia – the Therapeutic Goods Administration is one of the strongest regulators of medicines and vaccines in the world.
“There have been no corners cut,” Professor Kidd assured Neos Kosmos.
“The same rigorous and approach which regulators take in this country to any new medicine, or any new vaccine, has been taken with these COVID 19 vaccines.”
The Nation’s GP worries that some Greek Australians, especially elderly ones, might be influenced by the irrational and dangerous scepticism of conspiracy theorists. Even native English speakers have been gripped by fallacious narratives, and this is where Professor Kidd becomes ardent.
“Everyone especially the elderly need to be vaccinated… this is a terrible disease, as a society we have a responsibility to do what Aristotle called the ‘good’.
“If I don’t vaccinate my children and I just rely on everybody else vaccinating their children then I’m not fulfilling my role as member of a community, not for the Aristotelian good.”
Every adult must get vaccinated for the common good
Professor Kidd wants every adult immunised in Australia by the end of October. Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been contracted to produce 20million doses, and that number will be boosted by the onshore production by CSL in Melbourne of tens of millions of doses for distribution both here and to other countries.
“Australia has 14 contracts with vaccine manufacturers, like Novavax which has a vaccine going through its clinical trials now, and COVAX for which the government is providing funding to assist in the rollout of vaccines in low-income countries as part of Australia’s aid contributions and “part of our global contribution to tackling COVID-19.”
The Professor has no time for vaccine nationalism, stressing the need to support the rollout of the vaccines in countries all around the world.
“Our best defence against variants is to have the majority of people vaccinated, which will prevent the virus from spreading and prevent the opportunity for the virus to develop through the variance.”
Like the flu vaccine, Professor Kidd believes we may be getting a COVID- 19 booster “every year, or every six months.”
COVID-19 is not an old person’s disease
Professor Kidd rejects the idea that COVID-19 impacts only the elderly and people with underlying health issues.
“We have young people here and overseas who have died from COVID-19, sure the risk of serious disease and death increases as you get older, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had very serious disease in young people in their 20s who ended up in intensive care units, or people in their 20s and 30s dying.
“We also see the phenomenon of long COVID-19, where the people who have been infected have recovered from their initial infection but continue to have symptoms for many months, and we don’t know if that is going to last for years,” Professor Kidd warned.
The nation’s GP compares the COVID-19 vaccine to the flu vaccine, “we can get the flu and pass it on, but the flu vaccine stops us from becoming seriously ill”.
Professor Kidd, like many, has endured the absence of his elderly mother who is in aged care during Victoria’s second lockdown.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year for families not been able to come together and I share that experience… I was separated from my mum for most of last year I was unable to see her in her age care facility… I feel the agony that many families felt right across Melbourne.”
Professor Kidd reflects on the tragedy of 150 Greek elderly among the 800 Victorians who died from COVID-19 and doubles down, “every adult must get vaccinated especially if we care for our loved ones”, we should commit to “Aristotle’s good”.